Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
Philippians 3:7–8 is near and dear to me. I’ve had it memorized (along with all of chapter 2) for more than 30 years now and reflecting on it has been a huge encouragement to me. Here are some thoughts regarding.
- Whatever was in Paul’s credit column has now been moved to the debit column. Ironically, all those years of preparation and commendation in gaining meritorious favor before God as a Pharisee had become a hindrance rather than help in knowing God (for a similar sentiment, see also Jn. 5:39). The only thing that remains in Paul’s credit column is Christ.
- Note it is “for the sake of Christ” that Paul consciously rejects any notion of confidence in his prior achievements. It’s not as though nothing whatsoever matters. Instead, the sheer weight of knowing Christ surpasses everything else. Everything!
- Something so profound occurred in Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-9) that his entire value system was changed forever! The very things he valued the most became the least valuable compared to Christ. The expression “to live is Christ” rings true in every sense of the expression.
- The verb tenses change to highlight a decisive break from his past compared to his present view of things (ἥγημαι = perfect tense, “[as a result of my past conversion] I now consider loss”) to the continual, on-going regard for everything henceforth (ἡγοῦμαι = present tense, “I [continue to] consider”). What Paul counted as loss at conversion, he repeatedly counts as loss again and again and again.
- Not only past achievements and blessings, but all the world offerings cannot begin to compare with the “surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus.” Anything in which Paul could be tempted to trust, apart from Christ, was absolutely suspect.
- A relationship with Jesus is not without its price, however. Jesus is clear one cannot have both the world and him (Mt. 6:24; 10:39; 13:44-45; 19:21; Lk. 9:62). To be clothed in the righteousness of Christ is to be stripped naked of all human pride and ambition that seeks to displace the work of the cross.
- The attitude Paul maintained toward all things is garbage or refuse (σκύβαλα = “garbage,” used for excrement or spoiled food). Not only are “all things” worthless or good for nothing, they are abhorrent compared to the intimate relationship with Jesus. That alone more than compensated for the loss of everything.